“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.” John F. Kennedy
Guitarist Peter Walker came up in the Cambridge MA and Greenwich Village folk scenes of the Sixties. He recorded two albums for the Vanguard label in the late Sixties in a style best described as American folk-raga. He studied with Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, and was Dr. Timothy Leary's musical director, organizing music for the LSD advocate's "celebrations". A new collection entitled “Long Lost Tapes 1970” is now available from Tompkins Square.
My father played guitar and my mother played piano. My dad also played mandolin and got new strings every year for Christmas. My mom had doubled on clarinet and sax with early 1920's and 30's all female orchestras, trio and chamber ensembles. Music was always in the house, every Wednesday my mom and her professor, Louise Wright, from the New England Conservatory of Music would come to the house and they would play four handed Mozart on piano with me turning the pages. Primitive reading and writing of music was basic pre school, they also had a pretty good classical record collection for the time; altogether it laid a good foundation for spending a life time transported by a love for music.
Spain's influence was priceless, both in the early 60's when I studied in Valencia, and later between 2000 and 2006, when I had the opportunity to study with teachers from the Sacromonte neighbourhood of Granada. As an adjunct to the previous training in Indian music it was just chock full of missing pieces and links between the "secrets of the orient" and western music. Studying fretboard theory with a gypsy genius friend of Paco de Lucia "Jingles" was the most important breakthrough for me, its a lot easier to improvise if you have a way of visualizing where all the notes are. The Flamenco families of the Sacromonte were wonderful in sharing their knowledge, time and friendship over several years, and after attending hundreds of shows, competitions and family gatherings, the process has given me the skills and permission to express what I feel. As a man and a musician I have come to respect the many differences of view, and approach on musical subjects. Everyone's music is different, but theirs too is beautiful - just different.
It’s great when I am not too tired. On tour after many hours in a van or train it’s some times difficult to come up to your A game night after night for weeks on end. Their will always be glitches but on most nights when playing full on, especially recently in Paris, Geneva, London, Gothenburg and Lisbon there is a sense of absolute command which I did not possess in the 60's. The Spanish training and a few years of playing lead guitar in a large gypsy band in the Triana of Seville gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to reach out and touch.
The recordings of the live performances are sometimes remarkably good especially on CD I have of the recent Paris Concert, the way the sound guy placed the guitar mikes and added a pick up made a great sound on the steel string that the audience really liked. I don't think I would have found that quality in the studio, so the variety of techniques is interesting, for example if the sound is really good at a concert you sell a lot of CDs. For a Studio I use Magnetic North Studio in Saugerties NY. Tod Levine is a great engineer, and yes, it’s nice to turn out perfect product. In the Studio you get perfection, in Live you get the passion.
Maybe a fall release and another Euro tour, of either "Songs and Ragas from the 60's" another 60's oldie but goody, and maybe "October in Woodstock” a recent studio Album on nylon and steel, six and twelve strings engineered by Todd Levine with great frame drums done by Tommy Brunjes.
I was inspired by John F. Kennedy. He possessed a Don Quixote quality but until his demise was succeeding against the political windmills. He reminded me of a crony of my fathers, Mayor Curley of Boston, who was arrested the day before elections for stealing millions and released the next day after being voted back in by a landslide. It turned out he had spent all the money on the poorest for books, medical care, schools and parks. These men lived their dream without following the usual rules, just the pursuit of excellence. In my limited way I have tried to bring those qualities to my music, to tell musical truths and express emotions as I interpret them - unencumbered by rules or preconceptions.
RDR was a good record because of the other artists. Without Mont Dunn and Bruce Langhorne the overall affect wouldn't have been as dramatic. It really was goodtime mellow music and the important thing was that it made listeners feel the same way. In the 60's I played the whole record in various different open D tunings and scales. Today I would play a fusion of Eastern and Western, American Folk, with genuine Raga riffs and Spanish techniques, in all modes of all scales usually normal tuning using skills acquired practising raga scales during the "wilderness years" and in Spain over the last ten years.
Ahhh yess Freddy … God-bless him. A deep booming voice in the Bear cafe in the morning, always a big greeting and it would be hours later before returning to the constant chores of the Woodstock life style.
Freddy lived in a Log Cabin (modern Prefab) at the end of the same road that big pink was on. I didn't go there often but remember having breakfast with him regularly over the years until he moved back south and I never saw him again. We stayed in touch through Bob Brainen who was a good friend of his and Karen's. I originally knew Fred from Cambridge where Tim Hardin, Karen Dalton, John Morier, Freddy and others would jam and play the night away. During 62 and 63 before I moved to Woodstock in 66 I was out of the country in Spain, Africa, and Mexico during 64, and 65, so didn't see anybody.
That's an easy one - playing harmonica with the oldtimers from the Grand Old Opry at Newport in 62 and with the cast of Hair at the million person protest against the war. The Woodstock festival. Monterey pop. Playing for three hundred thousand at Goose Lake Michigan. Watching Judy Mahen sing without a mike or a guitar and bringing 2000 people to their feet. Watching Janis at the Fillmore East do her act all the way through twice. Watching my Mom play Mozart and watching my dad play Mandolin.
Hmmm that's a good one. At the outdoor Woodstock reunion festivals I usually play extended lines of rhythm chords on the steel guitar, while for a English manor house I would probably try to articulate my nylon compositions over the fretboard more slowly and cleanly so they were a little more chamber music in their effect. The acoustics are so different you have to adjust.
I was busy preparing to play at the "Melon de Oro" (a prestigious competition) in Murcia (Spain) when Josh Rosenthal from Tompkins Square approached me in Woodstock about doing the tribute album, he asked about old tapes and I told him I had some but they had to be transcribed. I made a deal to release my current material as a precondition of releasing the Long Lost material.
The music scene in Spain and Peru is cutting edge fusion and, to me, is very exciting. I love the passion of Mexican music, the Portuguese experimental music is interesting. I love the passionate singing of the Balkans, the electronic music for the most part just turns the senses off and deafens them to the beauty of a vibrating string expressing, sorrow, longing, joy love etc.
Mike Jingles and a Russian protege named Alex have a fusion band near Almunecar (Spain). They are on the fine side of the cutting edge in my humble opinion. They are both wizard geniuses of the fretboard. Longer term, if you like clean great guitar, Paco Pena is an inspiration.
-- Peter Taylor (20 May, 2009)